Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Plans for trials of a blight resistant GM potato

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If the potato trial is successful spraying with fungicide could be reduced by 80%

Scientists in Norfolk hope to start field trials in May of a genetically modified potato resistant to blight if they can get government approval.

The disease, which can wipe out whole harvests, costs the worldwide potato industry £3.5bn a year.

Scientists at the John Innes Centre have identified two genes from a wild variety which can resist the disease.

Following vandalism of GM crops at the site, £20,000 has been spent on a security fence and cameras.

If government department Defra approves the proposal, a three-year field trial will start in May - with the first results expected to be announced by the end of the year.

'Cutting chemicals'

Professor Jonathan Jones from the Sainsbury Laboratory said: "UK potato growers spray crops 10-15 times a year and in 2007 Europe ran out of chemicals to control blight, it was such a wet year.

"If our research goes ahead and is successful, this will cut chemicals and carbon dioxide generated by the use of tractors."

The two genes were transferred from a wild variety found in South America, whose potatoes grow only to the size of peas.

If Defra grants a licence, the genetically modified Desiree variety, at present growing under glass in a secure greenhouse, will be planted in a field plot.

The plants will then be monitored to see its resistance to blight which is always present.

India has also started similar trials.

Professor Jones anticipated commercial production of the GM potato could start within five years.



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EDP 24 GM potato field trial planned at Norwich Research Park - 40 hrs ago



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